Well, Valentine’s Day is only a few days away. Every time I walk into a grocery store, I am tempted to buy roses or go down the chocolate aisle. I love chocolate hearts – I can’t resist buying those pretty little ones all wrapped in the silver, pink and red foil. The Dove dark chocolate ones with the antioxidants make me feel like I’m eating something semi-healthy – or at least that’s what I try to tell myself.
Roses, candy hearts, love letters, gifts ….
All lead me to think about love.
“Love” is a word we carelessly throw around all the time, not consciously thinking about what it really means to us, let alone defining how we want to live, give, and receive love.
Learning what it means to love others really is a big deal. We need to give this subject the attention it deserves. Love is at the core of everything good in life. It is our greatest need. It is what connects us. Each one of us longs to know we are loved. When we take the time to look around, every creation is soaked in love.
Which leads me to a question you may want to think about, especially this Valentine’s Day, and everyday –
If you were to pick three ways to show someone you love them, what would they be?
If you are wondering why you lack that loving feeling, I challenge you to begin to change one vital thing –
Make some changes in the way you listen.
I know! It seems pretty simple doesn’t it? Contrary to how easy it seems, learning to really listen is like learning a new language. It is not easy to do.
Learning how to listen to someone you love, is the greatest gift you can possibly give – whether it be your spouse, your children or another significant someone in your life.
We all yearn to matter, to be heard, understood, valued, and accepted. And yet, we often fail in our attempts to love others for who they are. Instead, it becomes about us. Rather than the conversations drawing us closer together they can become divisive. When people say something we don’t like, conversations can become about who is right and who is wrong. Before you know it we are yelling or off in separate parts of the house stewing over what is wrong with our parenting, or wishing we hadn’t married this person. We desperately want to change or fix them. And sadly, we miss out, because we didn’t take the time to get outside of ourselves enough to listen to what the other person was trying to say to us.
If you desire to radically transform a relationship with someone who matters to you, go to school on how to listen.
Here are three powerful ways to listen, that says, “I love you”.
1. Listening with Words of Understanding.
I say I love you when I seek to understand where someone else is coming from. Another way I think of this, is to practice being curious about someone else.
Being curious in order to better understand, says, “Tell me more.” Seeking to understand reflects back what it hears. “Wow, I hear you had a bad day.” “That must have hurt.”
I don’t assume I know what you are saying. I don’t jump in to give you advice, at least not yet.
I seek to understand first by creating a listening space for you and I keep my mouth shut.
Listening with understanding requires I slow down, am open-minded, rather than assuming I have the answer.
When I seek to understand you, I put my own opinions, beliefs and judgements on hold, and I fully accept you as you are.
I accept where you are in that moment. If you are upset, I allow you to be upset. I listen to what your upset is about. This is not easy to do when I want someone to feel better.
When I listen and accept you as you are, you feel safe, and you will want to share more of yourself with me.
2. Listening with Words of Empathy.
Saying I love you means I am empathetic.
Empathy says, “How you feel matters to me”, “Go ahead and cry.” “Tell me about it.” “I hear what you are saying” “You make sense.” “I get it.” “I have been there too.”
Empathy does not say, “What do you have to be sad about?” “Get over it.” “Don’t cry.” or “Enough already!”
Empathy is not dismissive, but instead takes the time to sit with you, where you’re at in that moment.
Empathy is patient, and kind.
Empathy does not try to “fix it” or give advice unless advice is asked for.
3. Listen in Ways that Validate Feelings.
When someone listens with understanding and empathy, we feel validated, and in turn, cared for.
When we are “in the pit,” discouraged, or disheartened, understanding and empathy validates our experience.
This creates a feeling of acceptance, comfort and calm within.
We feel less alone. Hope is created and somehow our problems do not seem as overwhelming.
Validation comes when a person is willing to just listen without judgment or offering advice.
Listening with words of understanding, empathy, and validation are foundational ingredients that connection, intimacy and healthy relationships are made of. The next time I’m with someone I love, I am going to ask myself the question, “Am I listening in a way that shows this person they matter to me?”
I have found in my life, when I feel disconnected from my husband or someone close to me, I am usually unwilling to connect with them in ways that require me to really listen.
Today, I am choosing to set my intention on cultivating love by practicing this language of listening, seeking to understand, show empathy, and validate how they are feeling. No advice, or fixing allowed. I am choosing to step aside and trust their process. Now that calls for another blog post!
And if you ask me, speaking this new language of love is more rewarding (albeit a little more challenging) and meaningful than a dozen roses or a box of chocolates.
Happy Valentine’s Day everyday,